Consenting Not to Be Informed: A Survey on the Acceptability of Placebo Use in the Treatment of Depression

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The aim of this study was to investigate the opinions of healthy students regarding the acceptability of placebo treatment if they were to experience depression. A survey was conducted among 344 students in five academic centers in Israel. After a thorough explanation of the placebo effect, its efficacy and limitations in the treatment of depression, the study participants completed a 32-item self-report questionnaire. Seventy percent (n = 243) of the participants answered that they would agree to treatment with a placebo as a first-line treatment if they were to experience depression in the future. Eighty-eight percent (n = 297) of the subjects did not think that a physician who administered placebos was deceitful. Once aware of the possible benefits and limitations of placebo treatment, most of our study population was willing to accept placebo as a legitimate treatment of depression. Additional studies on the possible use of placebo as an effective, safe, and acceptable form of therapy are warranted.

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